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Researcher studies impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV

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The management of COVID-19 in people living with HIV may be different – and a U of S researcher is hoping to help find the best course of treatment.

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Topaza Yu, an undergraduate student at the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, has partnered with a research team at the University of Toronto to understand the effects of COVID-19 infection on people living with with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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“On its own, COVID-19 is already a complex and serious infectious disorder,” said Yu. “Understanding the co-infection of COVID-19 and HIV adds to the complex equation. “

Yu secured a position in the Amgen Scholars Canada program in the summer of 2021, which allowed her to pursue an advanced research experience under the supervision of mentor Dr. Reina Bendayan (PharmD) at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy of the ‘University of Toronto.

The team investigated what happens when people living with HIV become infected with COVID-19.

“Specifically, we wanted to study how management strategies for COVID-19 patients coinfected with HIV are different from those for unco-infected patients and how treatment outcomes may differ,” Yu said.

An estimated 60,000 Canadians are living with HIV. The virus attacks the body’s immune system. If left untreated, the immune system can weaken and people who are immunocompromised may be at a higher risk of negative results from COVID-19 infection.

HIV, although it is a chronic disease, can be managed effectively with a drug regimen, which often consists of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, which lowers the patient’s viral load and slows his progressive attacks against the virus. immune system.

“Epidemiological data has shown that people of lower socioeconomic status face more barriers to accessing not only COVID-19 vaccine, but timely ARV treatments due to the pandemic,” Yu said.

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“This highlights the importance of creating accessible global health care and health-related services. “

Through a comprehensive review of the literature, the study found that the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in people receiving ARV treatment is similar to those without HIV.

“There is no evidence to support a weaker immune response to COVID-19 vaccines for people living with HIV and receiving antiretroviral therapy or people living without HIV,” Yu said.

This is good news for people living with HIV – the COVID-19 vaccine will serve to protect them to the same degree as others.

People living with HIV who are on ARV treatment may benefit from their protective effects in managing their response to the COVID-19 virus.

Those who do not receive ARV treatment or have other health problems may experience a more severe response to COVID-19 infection. Clinical and pharmacological management strategies should be tailored to the unique treatment situations of each patient.

This is one of the first research studies to examine appropriate strategies for managing the effects of co-infection of COVID-19 and HIV.

“We hope that our results can help others better understand the pharmacological management of COVID-19 and HIV co-infection and help co-infected patients achieve optimal therapy and a better quality of life,” said Yu.

The work is ongoing and is being led by Dr. Chukwunonso Nwabufo, a PhD student at the University of Toronto supervised by Bendayan and who served as a daily mentor for Yu during the summer of 2021.

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The team plans to write a manuscript for submission to an academic journal in the near future.

“I have always appreciated and loved the way research has fueled my sense of curiosity and innovation. The unanswered questions and the work that remains to be done keep me going, ”said Yu.

The research was funded by the Amgen Foundation as part of the Amgen Scholars Canada program. Amgen Scholars is an international program funded by the Amgen Foundation with technical and leadership assistance provided by Harvard University.

To learn more about Bendayan and Yu’s work, visit the following websites: pharmacy.utoronto.ca/faculty/reina-bendayan-professor, topazayu.ca

This content is the result of a partnership between the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the University of Saskatchewan.

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